Job’s Deception (# 2)

images (32)Gertruida will tell you (because she knows just about everything) that the human mind is a very vulnerable organ. Seemingly insignificant words or events may easily tilt the fine balance that most people should maintain to remain in the desirable state we call sanity (excluding preachers and politicians – they are genetically engineered to smile at whatever happens around them, kiss the babies and shake hands). Look at the number of divorces, she’d say, and nod the way a poker player does when he lays down his four aces. She also says when big things happen, big changes may follow; and then she laughs like somebody does when slapping down a royal flush…

***

The three days Job had spent cutting the tree down, the hunger, thirst and exhaustion – it all contributed to his breaking down when at last he freed himself. That was significant, but not as important as when Digger Dickson sat down next to him to start crying as well.

***

Truth be told: Digger’s grief had a lot to do with the brandy he had recently consumed and the fact that his dead neighbour seemingly had nothing else to drink; but that didn’t matter. In any case: Job found he wasn’t crying alone and that mattered. That’s the funny bit about crying: some people cry happy tears, others in grief or pain – but all tears taste equally salty and the sniffing and sobbing sounds are more or less the same.

Gertruida says the bright scientists haven’t worked out why men who cried together, form a bond. It may be that such men are linked by the embarrassment of such weakness, or it could be a Freudian thing. Still, whatever the reason, men who shared tears always share  something else: a shy smile whenever they meet.

Digger used a hammer and a chisel to free Job from the chains; which was a symbolic act, Gertruida says, because he also allowed Job to escape from his past in other ways.

***

And so it happened that Digger took the emaciated Job under his care and started feeding him properly. Job slept for another three days, except for the times old Digger woke him up to eat or drink something.

On day four Job crawled from the tent before sunrise. In his previous life he would have stolen some food, any money available and possibly even old Digger’s donkey, Vicky. But not now; the balance in his mind had shifted. Maybe it was the chain, or maybe his new freedom, but Job saw to it that Digger woke up to his first-ever breakfast in bed. Vicky had been brushed and fed. The camp was as clean as the first day Digger had pitched his tent there.

This new arrangement suited Digger down to a T. Job wanted to help him, he was unstoppable. As his strength returned, he took over the digging. He loaded the sieve. He washed the gravel. He found diamonds and brought every one of them to old Digger, who spent his days relaxing under the thorn tree on the river bank, noting the finds in his little black book. Job washed clothes, dishes and even (once) the dusty tent.

“You have changed a lot, Job,” Digger said one day, “you’ve become a great help.”

Job just smiled and dug deeper into the blue-coloured clay on the river bank.

Job discovered a weird thing: you can keep people prisoner by being indispensable. The harder he worked, the less Digger did, the more wanted he felt – and the more Digger depended on him for survival. What started out as an attitude of sharing and gratitude, turned into something akin to love.

***

“For is love  not a prison?” Gertruida always asks the rhetorical question at this point. “The indispensability of the one, locks the other in a cage of dependence. It’s like an addiction, like cigarettes or gambling or wanting to hear the delightful ‘pop!’ of the cork after a hard day’s work. It’s pure self-interest. People need to know somebody adores them – and once it happens, you can hear the lock of the dependence prison go ‘click!’ and there you are: prisoner for life, caught in your own desire to have your needs attended to.

“Now, don’t confuse this with the love Oudoom is always going on about. That’s different.

“The sad fact is that most people jump into love instead of falling in love – because they’ve found life easier when they are with somebody who does things for them. It’s a from of laziness, even giving up. They don’t understand that this kind of loving deprives them of being who they should be. Jumping-in love becomes a selfish prison, see? Those people look at financial security, the nice house in the suburbs and the Labrador panting on the porch. That’s the dependence. But when they’re alone, they realise it’s just a fantasy; an economic illusion to fool them into believing in their own happiness; and not the caring they need to develop an own identity. 

“It’s sad: women go for looks and money; men go for beauty (however they perceive it) and sexuality. They think passion is physical…and miss the point completely, don’t they? Where’s the kindness? Where’s the respect to actually want the other person to develop and grow?

“Love – real love – is hard work, but it sets both partners free to be the best they can. It is about spiritual well-being and both party’s desire to build the significant other.” But then she’ll smile and say that’s not part of the story anyway, and continue with Job’s life. She likes doing this – throwing in something almost-difficult to understand –  a bit of Gertruida-warped psychology in it’s simplest and most complicated form. She says it keeps the audience focussed and on their toes.

***

So the two men shared dependence: Digger needed Job to do the work and Job needed Digger’s appreciation. It was a system that benefited them both.

Job developed an amazing physique. Hard work saw more diamonds on the sorting table. More diamonds meant better food and a shack. Better food allowed a healthier body. A healthier body did more work. Life was good, and Digger blessed the day Job had stolen that chicken from Bull next door.

But then, like Life does when the sky is blue and the future gets a fancy rosy tint, the next phase in Job’s life arrived in the form of Constable Viljoen, the new IDB policeman. And to understand the motives for the constable’s actions, one must know about his background, too…

***

Here Gertruida will stare at her empty glass like a cat does at a closed fridge door. She’ll flutter her eyes at Boggel and wait for the glug-glug sound from the bottle before going on.

“I knew the Viljoens, of course. General Viljoen became quite a famous soldier, despite his family’s humble background. Back in those days the Viljoen boys either joined the police force or became bywoners – mere farmhands, working for food and lodging. Nelis Viljoen was the youngest and the brightest. He saw what happened to his brothers and he swore he’d be the one to escape the impoverished life he had been forced to live. He realised his chances for promotion in a police station were limited: everybody did the same work and nobody stood out as exceptional. That’s why he requested the transfer to the Illicit Diamond Buying Investigation Squad – or the IDB Department, as it was known.

“A constable’s chances for promotion depended on the number of arrests and successful convictions he was involved in. Nelis understood this very well, and used the system to pursue his dream of becoming a somebody, a respected policeman, even – and in his most private moments – an officer…”

***

Nelis Viljoen strode into the camp and demanded to see everything. He checked the claim’s papers. He checked the records of finds and how they were disposed of. He counted up the numbers in the little black book Digger kept up to date, there under the thorn tree. Then he entered the shack, gave a shout, and returned with a diamond as big as a man’s thumb.

“Where did this come from?” He practiced this tone of voice at night, next to his camp fire in the veld, while he travelled from one claim-area to the next. It had to sound just right: authoritative, indignant and surprised.

Digger said he didn’t know, because he didn’t. Job said he didn’t, because he knew it wasn’t from their claim.

“Then the two of you are under arrest for illegally dealing in diamonds. You will accompany me to the station in Christiana immediately.”

***

“That diamond was Nelis’s ticket to stardom, you see? It came from the safe where the evidence of previous cases was stored, and he was careful to select a diamond involved in an old case that already resulted in a conviction. The diamond, he reckoned, was State property; and as he was an official of the State, then why not use it…?”

“Digger was a sickly man, and when the constable cuffed his only friend – the one he loved as the father he never had – Job went along meekly.”

Here again, Gertruida will stare at her glass. Unless it gets filled again, she won’t tell the rest.

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